One of the advantages of Linux is the ability to customize your computer’s operating system. In this regard, Linux seems to be a lot more flexible than Microsoft Windows. Like when it comes to designing your own Hebrew keyboard; all it basically requires is the editing of a single file! Vern Poythress has some helpful information on the “Keyboard Entry of Polytonic Greek and Biblical Hebrew in GNU/Linux” on his website. Poythress shows you how to edit the xkb keymap so that you can customize your Hebrew keyboard according to the way you like it. For Poythress (and me), this is a keyboard that is similar to the SIL Biblical Hebrew keyboard that was designed by SIL International and built by John Hudson (who also designed the SBL Hebrew font).
But there is another way of mapping your own Hebrew keyboard using IBus, the Intelligent Input Bus, which is now the default input method for Ubuntu and some other Linux systems. This involves editing the he-kbd.mim file in the ibus-m17n software package. I have edited this file to develop a Hebrew input method that substantially simulates the SIL Biblical Hebrew keyboard. The result is an input method that replicates the keystrokes of the SIL Biblical Hebrew keyboard for all numbers and English punctuation marks, all Hebrew consonants, all common Hebrew vowel points, plus the maqef, dagesh, meteg, atnakh, rafe, and sof pasuq. The accent ole is also included as it can be used as a general marker of syllabic stress in non-accented texts. Departing a little from the SIL Biblical Hebrew keyboard, the backslash key inputs a backslash rather than the paseq. The layout also uses CTRL+ALT for the third and fourth keyboard levels rather than ALTGR.
For anyone interested in typing Hebrew on a Linux system using a keymap similar to the SIL Biblical Hebrew keyboard using IBus, the necessary steps are as follows (in Ubuntu 10.04; 10.10; and 11.04):
1) Make sure you have the ibus software package installed, and download and install the ibus-m17n package;
2) Backup the original /usr/share/m17n/he-kbd.mim file somewhere safe;
3) Download my version of the file he-kbd.mim—if the link is down, a copy of the content of the file can be found at Vos Linux—and copy it into your /usr/share/m17n/ folder; or
4) If you prefer to design your own Hebrew keyboard, then edit the he-kbd.mim file—you need to edit the file yourself particularly if you want the full range of Hebrew accents to be available;
5) Configure General IBus Preferences (in Keyboard Input Methods in the System Preferences Menu in GNOME 2.32) by defining the keyboard shortcuts and language bar behavior;
6) Configure Input Method IBus Preferences by clicking on Select an input method to select your desired language and input method, then press add for it to be listed;
8) Run the ibus-daemon (if this is not automatically run by the system), and use your IBus Preferences keyboard shortcut in a text editor, word processor, or input window, to enable the IBus language bar;
9) Toggle to select א kbd on the language bar by using the appropriate keyboard shortcut (if necessary);
10) Start typing Hebrew SIL style!
If for some reason the ibus-daemon does not run automatically at startup, you can create an ibus-daemon.desktop file in the /etc/xdg/autostart/ folder with content as follows:
Comment=The IBus input method daemon
Recommended fonts to use for typing Hebrew are the stylish SBL Hebrew font, and the more traditional Ezra SIL font. If you intend to use the SBL Hebrew font exclusively, then the entries for the key sequences "f=", "f+", "j=", and "j+" can be removed from the he-kbd.mim file. These key sequences allow the dagesh to be entered with the letters sin and shin when using the Ezra SIL font (and others).
Please note that SBL Hebrew is a trademark of the Society of Biblical Literature.